Saturday, June 4, 2016

Home From the Windstar Star Breeze and Spain (With a Little Bit of Morocco and Portugal Thrown In)

We sailed two 8-day b2b segments on the Windstar Star Breeze. This is the smallest cruise ship we have ever sailed on (and I specify cruise ship versus boat because our Galapagos trip was the smallest boat), at about 9,500 gr tons and a passenger capacity of about 200 people. And being so small, we did feel motion when we hit some iffy weather in the Atlantic.

On our first segment there were 140 people. On the second segment there were 207. And those extra people were felt when it came to dining but more on that later.

This ship is all-suite. The only difference between most of the cabins is that some have a French balcony, a floor to ceiling window that opens with a railing outside to lean on ... can't sit out there. We had a regular suite with just a large picture window and the cabin was probably the largest we've ever had (except one .... the upgrade Ellen from Sea4Sail kindly perked us on our Holy Land cruise.)

We had a bathroom with a double sink and a full tub/shower. To all intensive purposes, everything looked great.  But ....

Windstar purchased the Star Breeze, along with two sister ships, now the Star Pride and Star Legend, from Seabourn. Word is that when Windstar got the ships, they were in pretty lousy shape and while Windstar refurbished the ships, they weren't stripped down to the hull. We had hoped we'd be lucky and avoid some of the issues that we heard about on the Cruise Critic forum but it didn't turn out that way.

When I turned on the water at the sink, it ran rusty. After a deep breath I decided to just let it run for a while and it finally ran clear and stayed clear. (In spite of that, I did not drink water from the sink and only drank bottled water.)

A couple of days into the trip, the pipe under one of the sinks sprung a BIG leak. Reported that and it was taken care of quickly. Then our toilet stopped flushing. That too got taken care of quickly but the replacement plastic piece just 'hung' off the wall. Looked like it would fall off at any minute but it worked and we didn't want to make any more waves.

Then we heard a gurgling sound in the bathroom. Trying to figure it out I looked into the tub. The picture shows the sediment left in the tub after the water that backed up ran out again. Again, back to reception (now on a first name basis) and that was also taken care of.

Which brings me to a very positive thing about this ship and that is the crew. Service was superlative. I don't think we have ever had better service anywhere. The staff was excellent!

Next in line is the food which ranged from very good to excellent ... except for the breads which disappointed me. The head chef is from India so several nights there would be a special Indian addition to the menu. One of the additions was so good that Jerry had it again on the second segment of our trip.

And of course the cabin .... which was very comfortable. The a/c worked perfectly and quietly, there was tons of room within the cabin and plenty of storage space for clothing.

So ... the dining. Breakfast and lunch is served buffet style in the Veranda Café, a small area on the back of the ship. There is space for inside seating for only about 50 people. Other choices are the open air tables right at the stern, or an outside sheltered area more to the middle of the ship. In nice weather these are great options but on the second segment we had some lousy weather ... chilly a lot of the time, and pouring rain other times. There is no way 200 people could make their way through the Veranda Café or find a comfortable place to sit and eat. Finally, a couple of days into the cruise the main dining room was opened for breakfast and lunch ... it should have been opened sooner. Still buffet style but now lots of tables for passengers to sit at.

And we noticed a definite slowdown in dinner service between the segment that had 140 passengers and the one that had 200.

So were things perfect? Obviously no. But did we enjoy the ship? Basically yes. Would we sail on her again? No and the reason has more to do with the motion of the ship at sea than anything else. (I didn't have any problem but my husband has some balance issues.) I can't say enough about the fantastic crew and it was great the special things this ship can do, like sail up the Guadalquivir River into Seville, which the big ships can't do. I don't know .... maybe if we find the right itinerary that sails in the calm Caribbean ..... :)

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